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March for Science under the microscope

Re: “March Proof Science Has Had Enough,” May 2 editorial.

This editorial (previously published in the Winnipeg Free Press) asserts, with certainty, that science has had enough!

The phrase “science has had enough” caught my attention. I wondered what the author meant by “science?” How many kinds of sciences are there? Well, to begin with, there are the natural sciences and the social sciences (perhaps there are more). Natural sciences include physics, chemistry, biology, mechanics, geology, quantum mechanics, astrophysics, etc. Social science seems to include sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, education, etc.

What kind of high school students are attracted to (and admitted to) natural science programs? One can generally predict that students who have earned credits in analytical high school subjects such as mathematics and the natural sciences are likely to be admitted. It is generally agreed that analytical subjects give students the opportunity to learn how to think.

What kind of high school students are attracted to (and admitted to) to the social science programs? Since there are usually no requirements in mathematics or in the natural sciences, successful applicants often include grads with few credits in math and natural science and more interest in non-analytical (descriptive) subject areas, such as social-work related topic areas.

If the social sciences have few requirements for analytical subjects such as math, how can they be identified as even being sciences? They, apparently, justify their math-backed approach (needed to be called a science) by resorting to statistics, the weak sister of the mathematics world.

How reliable, and how certain are the observations taken from statistical inquiry? Well, there’s the rub!

Statistics, in the hands of some math-phobic social scientists (PhD or not), can be entirely unreliable if the users don’t understand the limits of statistical inquiry, and the meaning of statistical terms. At worst, statistics can suggest possibilities, and at best statistics can suggest probabilities.

So, who were the many thousands of marchers on May Day? Were they natural scientists? Were they social scientists” or were they just hordes of dissatisfied citizens who can be counted on to turn up to protest almost anything?

The March for Science has proved nothing, other than that social action (e.g., marches) can be interpreted, by some, as meaning something important.

BARRY F. KAVANAGH

Brandon

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 9, 2017

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Re: “March Proof Science Has Had Enough,” May 2 editorial.

This editorial (previously published in the Winnipeg Free Press) asserts, with certainty, that science has had enough!

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Re: “March Proof Science Has Had Enough,” May 2 editorial.

This editorial (previously published in the Winnipeg Free Press) asserts, with certainty, that science has had enough!

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